Nick: I can't tell you how many times I have tried to explain common tasting notes (apple, peach, cherry, current, flint, etc.) to a guest at my store only to have them confusedly tells me they don't want a fruity wine. Please keep in mind that people who don't grasp tasting notes are the newest of newcomers to wine. Still, maybe Will is on to something. Maybe we should "dumb it down," keep it simple . . . after all, the overwhelming majority drinks wine for one simple reason: to relax. The average consumer doesn't really want to think about their wine and dissect it bit by bit. They just want to pop, pour and sip.
That being said, we here at AudioVino do not plan on dumbing down our tasting notes. In fact, this article makes us feel like we should maintain creativity in tasting notes, look for the extremes and find the wines that have ultimate personality. After all, the people who follow blogs like AudioVino are the ones who do dissect their wine and are looking for an adventure in every glass.
Enjoy (BTW new AudioVino to come soon):
A New Wave of Chardonnay Down Under
By WILL LYONS
A few eyebrows were raised last month when disgruntled Liverpool cinemagoers to the Oscar-nominated "The Artist" demanded their money back, saying they weren't told it was a silent film. While their actions are a little strong, as a wine writer, I can empathize. When was the last time you bought a bottle of wine only for it to taste nothing like you thought it was going to? Only the other day, a collector of Burgundy's wine was lamenting to me how he can spend as much as ?20 on a bottle and still get it "very wrong."
Wine labels are often extremely confusing. Yes, they can be graceful, charming and, in some cases, works of art, but when compared to the labeling of other foodstuffs, they are rarely credited as informative. Of course, there are exceptions. The widespread practice in countries such as Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand and the U.S. of placing the name of the grape variety and tasting notes on the back label has helped the consumer enormously. But sometimes, I wonder whether anybody outside of the rarefied circles of the wine world really understands what the descriptors on the back label actually mean.
It is a question wine professional Robert Joseph, of U.K. wine-research company DoILikeIt?, has been investigating. In surveys he has conducted, consumers rarely come up with fruit descriptors to describe wine, he says. This is revealing, as that is the common language used by wine professionals (myself included). So where a wine critic might describe a white wine as possessing notes of apple, lemon or orange peel, according to Mr. Joseph's research, consumers prefer words like dry, smooth, fruity, mellow, rich, crisp, fresh, full-bodied and zesty. Similarly with red wine: spicy, intense, smooth and oaky are preferred to red cherry, balsamic, cedar and black currant.
In a separate survey conducted by DoILikeIt?, around 3,000 British supermarket consumers were given a set of descriptors and asked: "Which words do you associate with wine you like?" The results show that 20% to 25% liked oaky white wine, while 40% didn't. Again, these are revealing, as in European wine circles, the overuse of ageing wine in new oak barrels is often derided by critics. Admittedly, 40% is a large number, but it is not by any stretch a majority.
Which brings us to Australian Chardonnay. In the mid 1980s, Australia took the export markets by storm when they produced easy-to-drink, fruit-driven Chardonnay, with a distinctive, creamy oakiness. "Sunshine in a bottle," was what some critics called it, and it worked. It was a huge success and, in many ways, Australian Chardonnay became a brand within its own right.
Back then, Australian wine producers told us that the concepts of terroir and different regional styles didn't matter, as it was the grape variety that was the main driver of flavor. But in recent years, there has been a revolution in Australian winemaking that has seen a change in the style of Chardonnay produced. It is, says Adam Eggins, chief winemaker at Clare Valley wine producer Wakefield, a style that is heading toward less wood.
Wine producers in Australia have started to produce Chardonnays that have a crisp, lean style-in some cases with no oak at all. Moreover, when you talk to Australian wine producers, you now regularly hear words such as regionality and cool climate.
But, as Mr. Joseph asks, who is dictating the style change? He questions whether the new Australian Chardonnays have a sufficient point of difference to make him want to buy them over, say, a Macon-Villages. Moreover, if he were offered an unoaked Australian Chardonnay in a restaurant, why would he choose that against a similar style of wine from a European region such as an Albariño from Spain or a Grüner Veltliner from Austria. Are there any conclusions we can draw from these findings?
Of course, any survey is just a snapshot. But it is interesting to note that when I asked Mr. Eggins which of his Chardonnays sold best, he immediately pointed to the oily rich Chardonnay, which, you've guessed it, was aged in oak.